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Kia ‘won’t play in EV price puddle’

Budget electric cars not on the agenda for Kia Australia.

8 Jun 2023

ELECTRIC car sales are booming, and there is no shortage of new, affordable EV options for customers looking to make the switch.


But newly appointed CEO of Kia Australia, Damien Meredith, has made it clear that the Korean brand won’t go chasing cheaper EVs in a race to the bottom on electric vehicle pricing.


Brands such as MG and BYD are growing rapidly, with unprecedented levels of EV sales due to less restricted supply, as well as assertive pricing and positioning that appeals to mainstream buyers.


The MG ZS EV, now with a Long Range version, is one of the nation’s most affordable electric cars, starting from just $44,990 drive-away, and the model has accounted for 1400 vehicles sold so far in 2023 (to the end of May). The incoming MG 4 EV will be priced from $44,990 plus on-road costs, though the top-spec version will have a whopping 530km of claimed (WLTP) driving range for $55,990 plus ORC.


Other entry-level offerings like the BYD Atto 3 have taken the market by storm. The Atto 3 starts from $48,011 plus ORC for the Standard Range model, while the Long Range version adds $3000 to the price. That EV SUV has already seen 4664 sales year to date (end of May, 2023), making it the best-selling small electric SUV by a long stretch.


There’s also the soon-to-launch GWM Ora electric hatchback, starting from $44,490 drive-away – making it, at the time of writing, the most affordable EV on the market in Australia, though it does play in a different market space to the Kia Niro et al.

As for Kia’s Niro EV, which is the most affordable electric car the brand offers at this point in time, the year-to-date tally is a bit more modest, with 294 examples of the current-gen model sold, and 14 of the Niro Plus EV purpose-built model.


The Niro’s pricing is considerably higher than those rivals, but that’s the job it has been given to do, according to Mr Meredith, who is adamant that the Kia brand is in good stead when it comes to its pricing strategy for EVs.


“I think competition is great. It keeps you on your toes, it makes you think about the future and where you want your brand to be, and do you want to grow the brand and enhance the brand - or do you want to continue to play in the price puddle?” said Mr Meredith.


“So, we made the decision, we read it reasonably well in terms of what was going to happen, so we thought we are going to take a ‘brand pathway’ here – not knowing when we made that decision that we’re going to get great products like EV9, Stinger etc.”

As for if and when the brand will offer a more affordable EV to the Australian market, Mr Meredith says the company isn’t planning to join the MGs and BYDs of this world in the sub-$50K EV segment.


“Not yet. We made the decision that we would stay with longer range batteries rather than shorter range batteries, and that we would build on specification and pricing accordingly. And it’s done pretty well for us.


“That’s not to say that, you know, in a few years time that there might be a band of sales that we think, ‘well, that’s going pretty well, so let’s build something that’s available to us to get in there and compete’,” he said.


“So, I’m not saying we won’t do it, but it depends a lot on what happens with the other vehicles. We’ve got seven EVs coming - what shape, size, segmentation they play in, then we’ll be able to answer that,” said Mr Meredith.


“We’re very respectful of all of our competitors, and what BYD, MG are doing is pretty good. But they’re doing it with price and they’re doing it with low-range batteries. We decided against that. But if the time comes, we may change our mind and compete there.”


So far in 2023, electric vehicle sales have boomed, with a total of 32,050 examples sold to the end of May 2023. That makes for a market share of more than seven per cent, up from 1.7 per cent for the same time last year.


BYD is expected to soon add yet another affordable electric vehicle to its model mix, with the Dolphin EV likely to go on sale here by the end of the year, with orders scheduled to open in July 2023.

The BYD Dolphin EV is widely tipped to become the most affordable electric car on the market in Australia, with pricing likely to kick off around $40,000.

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